Practical Praxis: the Need for Action

This weekend, CharismaNews, a site under the umbrella of Charisma magazine, one of the largest Christian-focused magazines in the country (itself the umbrella of Relevant magazine), published an op-ed in defense of Islamophobia. Such bigotry provides us with a perfect example of how to enact a feminist and theological praxis that is intersectional.

The article, written by Rev. Dr. Gary Cass, a Presbyterian Ministry who is on the board of several conservative organizations dedicated to “taking back America for God.” It has since been taken down, without apology and without comment.

In the article for CharismaNews, Cass argues, in no uncertain terms, for American Christians to take up guns and prepare themselves for a just war with Islam:

Either way, we must be prepared for the increase of terror at home and abroad. This is not irrational, but the loving thing we must do for our children and neighbors. First trust in God, then obtain a gun(s), learn to shoot, teach your kids the Christian doctrines of just war and self defense, create small cells of family and friends that you can rely on if some thing catastrophic happens and civil society suddenly melts down.

Portions of his screed reflect Hitler’s wording around the “final solution” for the elimination of the Jews (I really hate to Godwin here, but it’s true). This is nothing less than a call for genocide against not only another religion but against the Arab world altogether.

And here is where a feminist praxis takes action – in Christian feminist praxis, we cannot simply write this off as just another right wing extremist with absurd views. Here, “Not All Christians Are Like That” doesn’t cut it. As white, American Christians, it is our duty not only to make it clear that this man does not speak for Christians but to ally with our Arab and Muslim brothers and sisters in the world and stand up against such hate speech.

Praxis, as an ally, involves much listening and waiting and taking our cues from the marginalized. But that doesn’t mean we never act – indeed, this is a point where a loud response from both allies and marginalized alike can help create change. This is where the action part of our praxis comes into play – we must not simply stand by and say, “Not all Christians believe this.” We must actively dismantle and protest against people who assume they speak for Christianity. We must protest against hate speech by actively calling it out as bigotry and violence.

And here, too, is where we must use what platforms we have to let the editors and the publishers of such excrement know that they cannot publish this without consequence. Charisma tries to evade responsibility by saying, in italics at the bottom of the article, that the opinions expressed at those of the author and are not a reflection of the magazine. But such disclaimers are faulty defenses when, without Charisma’s platform, these opinions would not have been given such a widespread audience. The opinions would still exist, to be sure, but by publishing such opinions as a legitimate op-ed in their online site, Charisma endorsed and promoted the work. They gave it legitimacy, regardless of the individual feelings of the editors, and now they must face what consequences are to come from that. Despite the fact that they have now taken it down, it is important that they recognize why it needed to come down.

So what does activism and praxis look like in this situation? What does taking a stand look like? It looks like pressuring advertisers on CharismaNews’ site to pull their support of Islamophobia. It looks like pressuring the PCA – Cass’ denomination – to enact church discipline on a minister who is speaking hate speech and violence in his capacity as minister. It looks like bringing this to the attention of Charisma’s editors, creating bad press and bad publicity for the magazine and urging them to apologize in addition to taking the post down. All are practical, workable techniques for enacting a practical activism in the face of hate speech.

This is feminist, Christian praxis – praxis requires both humility and action and knowing which one is required of us and when. We cannot simply listen and call that our praxis – we also need to act.